A quick poker lesson for cash games

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By Jay Houston

A friend of mine, we’ll call him Mike, called me a few weeks ago as he was walking into a $1-$2 no-limit hold’em cash game and asked me for some quick advice on how to beat the game. The thing about Mike is he’s a very bad poker player and tends to be quite delusional at times. Explaining to him there’s no such thing as quick advice on how to beat the game of full ring NLHE was out of the question. So I simply said: “Just play tighter than you have ever played in your life, and overplay your big hands.”

Naturally he asked why, and I told him I didn’t have time to explain it. But, luckily for the readers of Ante Up, I have time to explain it to you.

If Mike plays for three hours he’ll play roughly 90 hands. Every nine hands Mike will pay a minimum of $3 in blinds. To break it down, Mike basically is paying $30 to see 90 hands. So he only needs to make $31 to be a winning player.

Statistically, in 90 hands, Mike should get a big pair like AA, KK, QQ or JJ. To be extremely hypothetical, all he has to do is reraise preflop, continuation bet half pot, get a weak caller, and have his hand hold up to be a winning player on the session. That’s it.

Yes, there are a billion ways to get value on a session, and, yes, Mike should limp to set mine, and yes for all of those times Mike misses value he won’t be able to make up for all of the times he gets coolered or takes a beat, yada, yada, yada. But for someone who has no real concept of position, meta game, frequency or odds, this is about as good of a strategy as he is going to get. If he plays any other way, poor Mike is most likely going to lose the paycheck he receives from Lowe’s every two weeks.

The main reason this strategy should work for Mike is because the typical players in a $1-$2 home game are not really concerned with frequency or image unless a player is clearly being a lunatic. So what this means is even if Mike only plays five of his 90 scenarios, he’s still very likely to get action from calling stations with his big hands, and therefore get value. Of course there will be times he takes a beat and gets coolered, but most of the time he will make his $31. At least he’s hanging out with friends and having a good time.
Even if you’re Mr. Super Pro Texas Hold’em Expert, the breakdown of a three-hour session should still hopefully open your eyes to realize what true percentage of hands you need to be playing to come out on top in these home games.

By the way, Mike called me a few hours later and said, “Jayseph! Thanks for the tips I made 150 bucks off these two huge fish!”

Coincidentally, Mike happens to be the biggest fish I have ever met, so if this advice worked for him, I hope it will work for you.

— Jay Houston is a young poker pro and is a sit-n-go specialist. You can email him at editor@anteupmagazine.com